Latest Solar Power Innovation set to Increase Thin-Film Solar Panel Efficiency by over 20%
A revolutionary coating for solar cells has been developed by researchers at the Iowa State University that will improve the efficiency of thin-film polymer solar panels by 20 percent.
Thin film polymer solar panels are seen as the way of the future by many in the global solar power industry, as they can be manufactured like plastic in a roll to roll form and are cheaper to produce than traditional hard-bodied silicon solar panels. The challenge posed by Thin-Film is a lower sun-to-energy conversion efficiency in comparison to the more traditional Monochrystalline and Polychrystalline solar power panels.
The breakthrough came when Chaudhary’s team developed a way to deposit a uniform layer of textured substrate onto the surface of the polymer solar cell made up of millions of miniscule flat-topped ridges which effectively "bounce light" between them before it can be reflected away, improving the amount of light that is converted into electricity by the photovoltaic cell.
Tests indicated the research team's light-trapping cells increased power conversion efficiency by 20 percent over flat solar cells made from polymers. Tests also indicated that light captured at the red/near infrared band edge increased by 100 percent over flat cells.
The appication of textured, solution-based coatings to improve the light-gathering ability of solar cells is not new - it is common practice with silicon based solar panels. However, its application to Thin-Film Solar Panels is a lot more challenging, and hence the remarkability of this event.